Over 50 Labour Party politicians and office-bearers in and around Glasgow have put their names to a statement backing “direct action” to prevent Serco implementing its policy of changing the locks on asylum-seeker accommodation.
The statement was initiated by Labour Party members active in the campaigning triggered by Serco’s announcement in late July that it would be evicting asylum-seekers deemed no longer eligible for support by changing the locks on their accommodation.
Around 5,000 asylum-seekers are accommodated in Glasgow, the only local authority in Scotland to accept asylum-seekers under a government “dispersal” programme dating from 2000. Serco rents out properties from Housing Associations (20%) and private landlords (80%) and then accommodates asylum-seekers under a contract with the Home Office.
The statement supports non-violent direct action to prevent evictions and urges Labour Party and trade union members to mobilise in defence of asylum-seekers “not just in the political arena but also on the streets.”
The statement also makes the more general point:
“Campaigning in defence of asylum-seekers should be part of a broader transformation of our Constituency Labour Parties into campaigning organisations – rooted in our communities and local workplaces, and standing alongside of them in their struggles.”
And a press release issued with the statement explained:
“Labour in Glasgow was founded on the industrial disputes and rent strikes of Red Clydeside. We welcome initiatives in the political arena and challenges in the courts to Serco’s policy, but we also want to reconnect with that tradition.”
Apart from Scottish Labour Party leader Richard Leonard, the statement has been signed by members of the Party’s national and Scottish Executive Committees, four local CLP secretaries (50%), both Labour MPs in Glasgow (100%) and all four Labour MSPs in the Glasgow region (100%).
But just five out of 31 Glasgow Labour councillors have signed the statement — a miserable 16%. According to Labour Group leader Frank McAveety — who has not put his name to the statement — signing up to the statement is a personal decision for councillors.
Faced with a wave of popular protests Serco announced a 21-day “pause” in implementing its lock-change policy. That “pause” has now been extended as a result of legal challenges.
Campaigning needs to continue to keep Serco on the defensive.